Leaving My Toys Everywhere

June, 2014

I’ve been working with plastercine as an internal conversation I’ve been having in regard to materialism and the arcade machine - the means of interacting with any work. I imagine Hardware and software bridged by invisible structures in tension, and what kind of tensions are interesting whilst at play with any thing? When we work digitally, the a screen is affecting light’s travel towards us, and has it’s own internal architecture. So what, if any, external architecture could mediate this relationship. 

Traditional arcade machines enable a kind of looking in, or inquisitive gaze. Attention is specifically directed downwards, and traditional panelling usually frames the screen to give a multiplicity of representation. It’s not just the physical screen being housed, but for me the arcade machine acts as a kind of case for a mysterious entity. The LCD flat panel world collapses this entity, and higher screen resolutions sometimes destroy (for me) those early crystalline memories, the feeling of peering through into stained microcosms, that vibrated and tried to escape their structure.  

In the first embodiment presentation I left several pieces of plastercine on the table whilst I was doing the talking component. Afterwards I found several models that were created by participants - I wasn’t directing attention to them specifically, and the models themselves were interesting. I also left a toy arcade machine on the table. 

I documented all of the models created, and have been using them to inform playful prototypes of imaginary interactive devices. The first steps of this are extremely playful, looking at people and scale, and thinking about this arcade machine memory.

These small sculpts are using only hand shaping, and a singular ballpoint pen. Buttons/Protrusions from this thing are interesting to me. I recently bought 500 more grams of blue and red plastercine - I may require more, and will sculpt with this material further.

Leaving these these things out in public space - they get played with. I love this relationship to the thing, and this chance of anonymous play, or play on a playground. I  brought a bunch of plastic animals and placed them on the central desk, and the play that has surrounded these things is fantastic. A mysterious (unknown to me, at least) player has been making the toys talk, with a fantastic sense of storytelling. Pulling apart the play here into it’s components is less interesting to me than the feeling of what it does to me. When stories are told in a collective space, without your agency - you feel a necessity to return, lest you miss out part of the story. I haven’t been in University this last week, so I asked Alexey to send me the photos he had started to take of the action there. It would be amazing if the toys left the table and started their own lives and continued their drama elsewhere.

Finally, I’ve been looking at tensegrity structures in order to inform the sculpture, and further physical making. These structures are hard components, held together by tension, similar to the some structure of the human body. Perhaps some playful planting of buttons and knobs inside these plastercine works could be interesting, but maybe even under the skin of the thing, so a necessary massage might have to be exacted upon the thing in order to elicit interaction with it.

I’ve been rewatching Existenz recently too to reimage this umbilical relationship we have with technology. I feel our traditional controller/screen relationship has these invisible ties. I also feel that generally the film is kind of a commentary rather than a plan for the future, but reading Cronenberg’s technology in relation to bodies would be a useful engagement. 


Phil James
TAGGED IN Play, Animals, Plastercine